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Desperate Characters

“Lorna's Silence” offers an unusual case of extreme naturalization.

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If there is such a thing as desperation tourism, it is being sold in movies such as “Lorna's Silence,” about a young woman trying to gain citizenship in a foreign country through desperate measures. Not just desperate measures, but bewilderingly complicated, lunatic measures, which involve two phony marriages, heroin addiction, Russians and premeditated murder, all so Lorna (Arta Dobroshi) can open a cafe with her sweetheart, Sokol (Alban Ukaj). Is anyone this desperate to open a coffee shop?

“Lorna's Silence” was written and directed by the brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, whose many similar films will do nothing to counter anyone's suspicion that the sordid European masses live absurdly bleak and immoral lives. An Albanian covetous of Belgian citizenship, Lorna is already married when we meet her to Claudy (JAcrAcmie Renier), a Belgian drug addict who has agreed to the arrangement for money, unaware that Lorna and her Belgian handler (Fabrizio Rongione) plan to have him killed in a fake overdose to speed up the process of getting Lorna unhitched and married to a Russian willing to pay big bucks for the chance at his own citizenship.

If the story in “Lorna's Silence” is about people willing to sell and do anything to get what they want, the movie is more about expecting audiences to buy it. “Lorna” benefits from a relaxed and expansive feel unusual to movies made in the Dardenne's much-imitated, plain, unadorned style, and the film is less one-note than some of the brothers' other productions. There is also a welcome nugget of wisdom that gives the film a heartbeat: Lorna has second thoughts, and though her ultimate culpability is left vague, the damage to her psyche isn't.

Fraught with fantastic turns nonetheless, “Lorna's Silence” forces the question of whether desperate characters like Lorna and her cohorts really exist, and if so what they demonstrate about life beyond the fact that crazy plans sometimes collide with incredible coincidences. (R) 105 min. HHIII

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